The Solemnity of Our Lord
MT 25:31-46
November 26, 2017

A political research group has published its findings which indicate that currently, there are 49 dictatorships in the world, and 21 of these authoritarian regimes are in Africa. Recent dramatic events in Zimbabwe have commanded international attention as 93-year-old strong man Robert Mugabe resisted efforts by the military and his own political party to bring his almost 40-year rule to an end. Once in power, dictators are reluctant to step aside. Tragically, there is a strong likelihood that his replacement will be no better…possibly worse!

There are 18 totalitarian governments in Asia. Kim Jung Un’s style of governing is a classic example of how absolute power can be abused. Amnesty International charges this oppressive regime with unlawful detentions followed by harsh prison sentences or interment in work camps without due process. There is severe restriction on freedom of expression. Torture, executions, and assassination are an everyday occurrence.

Seven despots in the Middle East rule without concern for the well-being of their people. Syria’s Bashar Assad is a reminder that absolute power is passed on to the next generation.

There are two dictatorships in the Americas, both characterized by gang-style violence and corruption.

Putin is Europe’s contribution to this list of henchmen and a sober warning that their ambition for power extends beyond the borders of their own countries.

So then, about one-quarter of the world’s 195 countries are governed by leaders who are brutal, corrupt, and guilty of countless crimes against humanity. Those numbers are sobering, but if you look at a map showing how this all plays out, the reality is terrifying. Over half of our planet lives in the darkness of tyranny.

What is most amazing, however, is that in spite of the suffering these criminals inflict, they often enjoy inexplicable popularity and support beyond what is imposed by the military, informers, and secret police. Putin’s favorability ratings are in the high 80th percentile. Kim Jung Un’s litany of honorary titles isn’t as long as his growing list of atrocities. While it is impossible to know the true feelings of the people of North Korea, he is commonly spoken of as “dear leader,” conveying the love and esteem with which his people regard him. Social scientists tell us that “dictators” are oftentimes revered most by the masses…common people hoping that a strong leader will somehow make their lives better. Tragically, their hope is misplaced when invested in the personality type that governs half our planet, which makes the Feast with which we end our liturgical year all that much more important for us to understand. Today is The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.

Today is a stark reminder of the truth that our ways are not God’s ways! God’s plan is not that we turn to another human being in hopes that their strength and power will make our earthly lives better. Rather, we look to Jesus Christ to lead all humankind into an era of everlasting peace and joy.

Jesus did not rise to power by taking control of a political party or gaining the support of the military. Our First Reading from Ezekiel describes the Lord’s power base. He gathered around Himself “the lost”…those who were marginalized and excluded by the privileged. His influence wasn’t based on threats of punishment. Rather, He “bound up the injured and healed the sick.”

If worldly leaders restrict freedom and imprison their opposition, Christ is the Cosmic Liberator. He opens our minds and hearts to the truth…and then encourages us to open our lips to broadcast the Good News that, by His death and resurrection, even our graves have been opened and the dead are set free.

The Lord was not looking to establish a dynasty by ensuring that His relatives would succeed Him. Instead, He came to proclaim the Reign of God…a Kingdom in which all are much loved children of The Almighty…a Kingdom which has no borders or boundaries…a Kingdom in which all are welcome.

Jesus did not seek titles and honorarium. He quickly corrected the admiring disciple who called Him

    “Good Teacher.” Why do you call me good?
    No one is good but God alone.

He humbled Himself to the point of submitting to the public execution of a political prisoner charged with the attempted overthrow of earthly authorities…religious leaders and the Roman authority alike. The Lord’s subversive message which the establishment found so threatening was simply a call to live in love…to respect the dignity of all humankind, and to provide for those in greatest need.

We conclude this liturgical year with the sobering reality that our ways are not God’s ways! As a result, half our planet lives in the darkness of dictatorship. Although the other half aspires to freedom, universal justice, and peace, no earthly government is perfect. Simply put, the condition of this world is chronic imperfection, which will persist until Christ returns in all of His glory. On that day, Christ will be accepted by all as King and…all will be all.

Until then, we wait in hope! And we are able to hope because we know the truth…that Christ IS King…now and forever! Amen.